Mr. Selfridge, Season Two (2014)

 

Reviewer: Charity Bishop

 

Five years after the store opened, Harry Selfridge (Jeremy Piven) is riding high on success. He survived the car accident, managed to keep his wife Rose (Francis O'Connor) from leaving him after his affair, and has his daughters in exclusive American schools. His son, Gordon, wants to join the floor staff, and make his way up in the world. But naturally, when things are going well is when the other shoe drops, and this one hits hard.

 

Lady Mae (Katherine Kelly)'s husband, Lord Loxley (Aidan McArdle), returns from the country with major debts and no scruples. Suspicious, paranoid, and scheming, he objects to his wife's friendship with Harry, and ruthlessly forces her to vouch for him, as the country breaks out into war. Loxley obtains a position on the war committee, uses Harry's contacts to pad his own pockets, and drags the Selfridge name through the mud. Meanwhile, Rose befriends a shocking, glamorous nightclub owner, Delphine (Polly Walker), and longs for a similar sense of purpose.

 

Various stories unfold among the Selfridge Department Store staff, including an engagement that threatens to destroy another love affair, an inheritance that opens doors for one employee, but threatens her reputation when she takes in a male refugee, an on-and-off romance between a local journalist and the head of the makeup department, and the mass exodus of male employees to the front, which leaves the store under-staffed unless they hire... women. And that's before the scandal hits.

 

Every show has a season where everything works, and for Mr. Selfridge, this is it. While some of the subplots do have a whiff of soap opera about them, the characters receive tremendous development, we learn more about all their back stories, and the introduction of the war brings a sense of urgency to their lives. The men that remain behind experience guilt and shame; tears fall as bloodstained letters arrive from France, and telegrams break hearts. Harry and Rose patch up their marriage, one awkward interaction at a time; their eventual reconciliation touches the heart. But perhaps the most powerful subplot involves Mae and her horrible husband. Abusive, manipulative, and scheming, we tense whenever she's in the room with him, breathe a sigh of relief when she escapes a blow, and cheer when the truth comes out.

 

The costumes are gorgeous, the petty rivalries amusing, the hairstyles magnificent, and the acting quite good, with a few exceptions. The American accents are rather terrible and, as usual, Harry's poor judgment and lack of foresight lends him endless troubles... but once I started watching, I couldn't stop.

     
Sexual Content:
Implied premarital sex (kissing, unmarried couples waking up together); references to extra-marital affairs. Lord Loxley forces himself on his wife (unseen, but he refuses to honor the lock on her door). A woman sets out to seduce a married man. An older woman winds up involved with a younger man.
 
Language:
Occasional mild profanities.
 
Violence:
Scraps in the storage yards.

 
Other:
None.


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